Meat and poultry processors continue to pursue innovative ingredient technologies as they reformulate products in response to consumer demand for clean, simple labels. While consumers seek products that are free from ingredients such as artificial preservatives, convenience remains a driver of purchase decisions. Frozen and prepared meals provide convenience to fit consumers’ busy lifestyles, and manufacturers want to offer quality products to capture retail sales. One way to be clean and convenient is to replace synthetic antioxidants with plant extracts.

Many frozen and prepared meals contain cooked pork-sausage-style components, such as breakfast patties, chorizo or seasoned ground meat, which can be quickly and safely reheated before consumption. However, the process of cooking meat, freezing, exposure to oxygen during storage and reheating make cooked frozen meat products very susceptible to oxidation and warmed-over flavor development during its shelf life. Artificial preservatives such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate and citric acid have traditionally been used to delay oxidative rancidity in cooked frozen pork sausages but are being removed from labels. Manufacturers are faced with challenges as they seek solutions that will best protect their brands’ quality and reputation.

Ground Meat Source: Kemin

A recent study examined lipid oxidation and off-flavor development in cooked frozen pork sausage patties over a period of 12 months. Results demonstrated that clean label alternatives such as a blend of rosemary and green tea, prevent oxidation as effectively as synthetic options, while maintaining higher scores with sensory panelists, according to Kemin Food Technologies, Des Moines, Iowa.

“This study is helpful because it examines the effects of oxidation and rancidity of reheated cooked frozen meat over time,” said Amanda King, technical manager-proteins at Kemin. “It compares meat that has been treated with traditional synthetic antioxidants and natural plant extracts, such as rosemary/green tea blends, as well as untreated meat. Results demonstrate that our rosemary and green tea blend prevents oxidation as effectively as synthetic antioxidants. In fact, the sensory panelists preferred the flavor of the sausage that contained our rosemary and green tea blend over both synthetically treated and untreated products. We hope manufacturers will be encouraged by these results and seek clean-label solutions that will protect their brands and meet consumer expectations.”